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India- Gujarat: Heartening Support for Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) and Teesta Setalvad: Saluts to the Courage of the Survivors

Sunday 1 March 2015, by siawi3


Godhra riot victims relive painful days

By Nandini Oza

Emotions ran high at a small gathering organised under the aegis of Citizens for Justice and Peace headed by activist Teesta Setalvad, on February 28. In 2002, on this day, communal riots had played havoc with the lives of more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims.

The riots were in retaliation for the death of 59 persons, who were burnt alive on board coach S6 of the Sabarmati Express in Godhra a day before. Thirteen years have passed since the blood bath, but the wounds of the riots, which continued for nearly a month, are still fresh in the minds of the victims and their kin.
Even as they became emotional, they rallied behind Setalvad, maintaining that she was being unnecessarily harassed and that it was done to bring down the morale of the NGOs and activists supporting the victims.
Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand have been in the radar of the Ahmedabad Crime branch, for allegedly swindling funds collected for building a “Museum of Resistance” at the Gulberg Society in Ahmedabad. The Supreme Court has directed Gujarat police not to arrest them and asked the duo to furnish documents demanded by the police. Former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri was among those killed in the Gulberg Society.

Abdul Majeed Mohammad Usman Sheikh, 60, broke down and then regained his composure and vowed to fight till the end for justice. An eyewitness in Naroda Patiya case, Sheikh claimed he had seen right-wing leader Babu Bajrangi cutting open a pregnant woman’s womb. “Half of the accused are out on bail. The victims need justice and so does Setalvad,” said Sheikh, who lost eight members of his family in the riots.
Quoting from the Gita and Quran, Sheikh categorically said that the scriptures are not wrong but it is people’s mentality that is wrong.

Another victim and witness Naeem Sheikh felt as if they are still gheraoed. “What was our fault? Was it that we were Muslims,” he asked and went on to add that had it not been for Setalvad the government would have put them behind bars as accused.

Rallying behind Setalvad, another victim survivor Saira Sandhi said that they did not know anything about courts. “Circumstances have taught us everything,” she said, adding that even when they go to get documents photocopied, they are charged. “Teesta has not charged anything from the victims for the last 13 years,” she said.

Later, the victims joined a group from the Jan Sangharsh Manch, which is also fighting for the riot victims, at a programme organised in Sardar Baug, in Ahmedabad.